Cooperation Northfield is dedicated to building the necessary foundations of revolution in the belly of the beast (USA) through base building organizing and dual power institution building. In this zine, we will discuss our basic theory/strategy and, more importantly, what we actually do. We invite anyone interested in our projects and vision to join us.
This writing will:
- Give a quick intro/overview of our core projects and how we operate
- Explain briefly why we think these are important areas to focus on
- And provide more detail on what we do as it relates to this strategy
Cooperation Northfield is both (1) an umbrella organization which encompasses multiple projects and (2) a collective/cadre organization. Organizers from each of the projects gather weekly, engaging in consensus democratic decision making for the whole organization (although most projects are primarily autonomous) and internal political education. All collective members are active in at least one or more projects but are not necessarily involved in all projects.
Solidarity Economy & Dual Power
Acorn Housing Cooperative: Many of our collective members live in a triplex house run as a housing cooperative.
Northfield Curbside Compost: 4 members run a curbside compost collection worker cooperative aimed at serving the entire city of Northfield
Feed The People (FTP) Farm Worker Co-op: We run a permaculture, free range, organic chicken farm on a 15 acre piece of land that will also be the site of future housing for cadre and a movement popular education school.
Northfield Against Line 3 (NAL3): We are fighting a tar sands oil pipeline in solidarity with Anishinaabe Indigenous leaders in northern MN. We are building a mass movement that uses direct action to delay the construction and create a political crisis.
Worker/Union Organizing: Specifically, some of our cadre members are organizers with a militant union local to help local factory workers fight their boss in a contract campaign. We also have a number of members salting (working in a place with the secret intent to unionize it) at multiple sites locally. One campaign is with workers at a grocery cooperative where we have 2 members on the board to work to pass union-friendly policy.
Young Peoples Action Coalition: We are working to radicalize and mobilize high school students in the Twin Cities around social and environmental issues. In Minneapolis, YPAC students are running a campaign to get cops out of schools and replace them with restorative justice procedures.
We also show up in solidarity with many other campaigns and do ICE watch work in Northfield.
Why We Do What We Do
Capitalism causes societal crises. Our task as revolutionaries is to build organizations (movements, layers of people, institutions, etc.) who can pull masses of people into combat against the decaying system and into the new liberatory institutions we are building, especially in times of crisis. This, in part, is how we can turn impending crises into revolutionary moments.
Thus, our task is to build mass bases of people experienced in organizing while simultaneously building dual power institutions.
When we say mass bases of people, we are referring to two things:
- Building a base of working class people through structure based organizing (workplaces, tenants, etc.) for a long-term and rooted base of power. We identify the working-class, especially the racialized (and other oppressed) people of the working class, as central to the struggle against capitalism.
- Cohereing mass layers of self selecting activists into key and specific fights to build layers of people with critical direct action/organizing skills
These are very different operations. We do both and we count them as part of the broader strategy of building a mass base of the left.
In our context, we refer to dual power to mean democratic institutions such as worker cooperatives, housing co-ops, community land trusts, democratic schools, and people’s assemblies. These are concrete and practical institutions that, in times of crisis, can draw in new masses of people as alternatives to capitalism and the state.
When a critical mass of people join these dual power institutions during a crisis of capitalism, a crisis has the potential to become a revolutionary situation in which masses of people have a choice between old system institutions vs the democratic alternatives we have been building for years. We cannot wait for these types of institutions to pop up in times of revolt and crises. We must have existing, successful democratic alternatives to point at as examples in comparison to the decaying system to win over masses of people. There are more details to these ideas but we hope this is a good primer to what we mean by dual power.
We see ourselves as building foundations. The current state of the US left is that there are not really organized masses for revolutionaries to direct into struggle. Most of the working class is not organized, conscious, or combative. We don’t have very many (or nearly any at serious scale) examples of democratic alternatives of practical institutions to point to. Thus, our task is to engage at the point of getting people organized in the first place and build the seeds of these types of institutions from the ground up.
Specifically, we see these areas as critical to build in the US left right now:
- Youth organizing and radicalization
- Building the solidarity economy and other directly democratic practical institutions
- Worker/union organizing
- Frontline Climate Justice direct action camps/campaigns
- General social movement activity
- Build cadre and collectives dedicated to effective work/strategy
Foundations to Revolution
Radicalizing young people and training them in the skills of organizing is critical to building layers of left leadership in the short and long term. This is why we created Young Peoples Action Coalition (when we were in high school). YPAC’s goal in the short term is to organize existing layers of high school activists around whatever social/climate justice fights they are excited about. The longer term goal is to help students transcend single issue campaigns into a fight to democratize their schools. We see this as building dual power institutions as well as helping train and radicalize youth who will either go to college (as radicals who know how to organize), go to work (as radicals who know how to organize), or go right into organizing (as radicals who know how to organize).
Strong and scaled Solidarity Economy like worker co-ops, housing co-ops, democratic schools, and peoples assemblies can be the basis of a revolutionary dual power situation. This is why we have started Feed The People Co-op Farm and Curbside Compost Cooperative as worker co-ops and Acorn Housing Co-op. We also use our cooperatives as a way to build/collective resources for our members to be able to live more simply and cheaply and thus free up time for organizing.
Organized, class conscious, and militant workers are critical in revolution and building a new social system. Masses of people are in the working class, and literally run the economy, much of which we would need to keep and transition to provide for social need instead of private profit. In times of revolution, workers are key to pulling a revolutionary general strike that shuts down massive sectors of the capitalist economy. This is why we do union organizing, salting, and intend to do much more worker organizing. We intend to focus on key sectors such as logistics, healthcare, education, but also organize in other industries when the conditions make sense for it.
Frontline direct action camps are an incredible place to assemble masses of people, train them in direct action, radicalize them through their own experiences against the state and capitalism, and fight the bad guys all at once. This creates layers of people who would have the hard skills and analysis to lead broader societal revolts. This is one reason we started Northfield Against Line 3. Our task is to build a mass base and mobilize in this way. We also do this anti-oil pipeline work because it is one of the most important climate fights in North America in our foreseeable lifetimes.
Social movements on a variety of topics (especially those that weaken forces of state repression like anti-police, anti-prison, anti-war, and anti-ICE movements) that pull masses of people into struggle have a similar effect of long term layers of possible direct action on the streets leaders. We do this through engaging in these struggles where it fits our capacities which usually means showing up in solidarity with all the numbers we can muster.
And of course, we need to build collectives and cadre that are connected to each other and working together to build all of these.
We believe that building people’s assemblies as a means of democratic political decision making is critical for overall dual power. However, in our local context, if we called for a people’s assembly now, only a bunch of white middle class liberals would show up. Who we need in a people’s assembly is the working class in all its diversity, and radical youth. For us to eventually have an assembly, we need to organize bases of those groups. We see a possible trajectory that looks like this:
- Organize workers and youth (unions, YPAC, etc.)
- Build worker co-ops that actually make profit/surplus
- Convene the workers from the unions and co-ops in a regional workers council to use participatory budgeting to distribute the surplus of the worker co-ops to other local projects important to/made by workers. This is an initial testing ground for training large groups of people in mass democratic decision making with real world and practical implications for them.
- As the experience and skill of this grouping grows, youth and workers come together to create and enact a regional political program/policies (and/or other organizing and institutions we want to build)
- Possibly (if we all really think it makes sense) run our own candidates in local elections who stay directly accountable to the decisions of the peoples assembly to implement our program.
That’s a vision, we are only in the beginning stages of building towards such a goal.
What about crisis??
We see three major crisis areas that impact this trajectory:
- Fascist control of the state and subsequent repression
- Economic collapse(s)
- Environmental catastrophes (local ones, obviously that’s the whole planet)
One short answer to these is this:
By building mass organizations of working class people who share common analysis and have learned how to work together democratically, and by building scaled institutions that can actually meet peoples basic needs, we have done two things:
- Prepared ourselves for taking advantage of crisis and helping make a revolution to fully overthrow the whole system (especially if lots of similar organizing/dual power has been built in key regions)
- Prepared ourselves to survive the impending crisis’ through community, democracy, ability to fight, and a network of practical institutions to meet our own needs. Even if a mass revolt is not possible in that moment.
In conclusion, that is a snapshot of the why and what of Cooperation Northfield! Are you interested in this stuff? We would love to talk/work with you! And even better, please consider moving to Northfield to do all this with us! Feel free to speak with one of us, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
This article was originally a pamphlet, reformatted and edited for an online form.